Jul 28, 2009

Fela Kuti - Yellow Fever


The entire mid-'70s found Fela Kuti and his Afrika 70 really honing in on their signature sound. Yellow Fever, released in 1976, sits right up there with No Agreement (1977) and Confusion (1975) both in terms of quality of the groove and Fela's tact in putting out his message. "Yellow Fever" opens with a couple of measures of guitar and bass interplay that sets up the standard funk-jazz vamp that will prod the entire length. The horn solos are reaching, explosive, and (though the word is overused) funky. Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker have some tough competition here, as these guys are unwielding in their voice. After eight minutes of instrumental eminence, Fela makes his own voice heard and gets to the meat of his product. The words speak of the strange practice of Africans lightening their skin -- this idea just doesn't jive with Fela's strong pan-African sentiments. As he gets progressively worked up, the choir responds to him exemplifying the idea and the vibe. Once Fela feels he's got his point across, he just lets the musicians have their fun until the end of this 15-minute rollick. An unbelievable and hard-hitting groove opens up "Na Poi" and slams in with absolute genius. This is actually another version of the same song from 1972. "Na Poi," banned by the Nigerian Broadcasting Company due to its sexual content, makes one wonder -- what was really going on in the Kalakuta Republic (his walled-in residence)? The instrumentation of "Na Poi" that began as genius settles into the familiar and works itself out until, once again, Fela decides to get down and literally dirty. This is an entertaining piece, but it doesn't really hold up to the rest of his material.


1. Yellow Fever
2. Na Poi
3. Na Poi (Part 1&2)
4. You No Go Die... Unless

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